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The Lyrics (in Greek)

Considered to be one of the masterpieces of Greek literature, EROTOKRITOS belongs to the category of epic poems, was written by Vitsentzo Kornaros and is constituted by 10.000 verses, divided in five parts. Its name has been taken from Erotokritos, the main character of this poem, which implies the one that has been tortured by love. Initially, the story of the poem appears to take place in Ancient Athens, on the days of King Iraklis (fictitious person) but then the poet adds characters, facts and places that are reported in the Middle Ages and this period of time. The plot is twisting around the love of Erotokritos and Aretousa, the daughter of the King, a love that is being used by the poet as a keystone in order to praise friendship, bravery and the love for the homeland.

Erotokritos was the son of Pezostratos, adviser of the King, who belonged to the inferior social class from the princess, something that made impossible any relation between them. Erotokritos, not having the possibility of expressing his love to Aretousa, sings in a disguise erotic songs under her window in the evenings, while the princess slowly falls in love with the unknown singer. When the Erotokritos is forced, with his friend Polidoros, to kill ten of the bodyguards of the King that had been sent in order to arrest him, he runs away to the city of Egripos, where, in vain, he tries to forget his love. Aretousa, when the unknown singer stops singing under her window, discovers that she loves him, despite the advices of her nanny, Frosini, who tells her that it is unreasonable to love a stranger and obviously of an inferior social class.
During a visit of Aretousa at the house of Pezostratos, father of Erotokritos, she finds out the songs and her picture, discovering thus the identity of her secret admirer and falls in deep sadness. In an attempt to entertain his daughter, the King organises fights of joust, where the most distinguished aristocrats of that time are called. In the fights Erotokritos participates as well, he wins the fight and takes the prize for his victory by the hands of his beloved princess.

Taking courage from his victory, the young man dares to ask in marriage Aretousa from her father, King Iraklis, asking from his father, Pezostrato to intervene. Iraklis however gets furious,dismisses his adviser, exiles Erotokritos and orders his daughter to marry the successor of throne of the Byzantium. Aretousa refuses to do this so Iraklis confines her in a dark and humid dungeon, with her nanny, where they remain for years, suffering many hardships. After many years, the king of Vlahias, Vlantistratos, declares a war to Athens and invades with his army causing enormous destructions. Erotokritos after drinking a magic liquid that changes his appearance, comes to help his homeland and causes enormous losses to the hostile army, while during one of the fights, he saves the life of the old King Iraklis and his friend, Polidoros.
The war is judged in a epic duel between Erotokritos and the nephew of the King of Vlahias, Aristos. Erotokritos
overcomes, killing his opponent but gets wounded seriously. The enemies are withdrawn, therefore Erotokritos is transported to the royal palaces, in the room and bed of Aretousa, where he stays until he is cured. King Iraklis wanting to expresses his gratitude, offers to adopt him and assign to him half of his kingdom. Erotokritos however denies and asks from him to release Aretousa and allowed to him to marry her. In the beginning the princess refuses to be married to a stranger, therefore Erotokritos goes by his own to her and, realising her faith, reveals his real face. The marriage takes place and the young couple gets on the royal throne.

For the poet himself nothing is known apart of what he writes about himself in his Conclusion, where he reports that he was born in Sitia, Crete and lived in the Castle (Heraklion). It is not also known whether he had any relationship with the Kornaros, a big family of nobles, of Venetian origin.
It is not known the time at which the epic was written. The Cretan dialect that is used is considered to have been shaped in this form after the second half of the 16th century. Inside the poem there are passages that imitate the Ariosto's "Raging Dutch", something that places his writing after 1550, while other passages refer to imitations of "Erofili" that was written by the Hortatzi around 1600. Many of the battles that are described in the poem appear to refer in the fights of the Cretans against the Turks after 1645, while despite the big popularity of the poem, there are no reports about it before 1669, when Crete has been dominated, despite the fact that there was a communication between the dominating Venice, where a lot of books were being published.
The first printed publication of EROTOKRITOS was in 1713 in Venice, a copy of which is saved in the Gennadio Library, while in the British Museum there is saved a handwritten publication from 1710. The publication of 1713 was printed again in 1737 and a copy of it exists today in the National Library, in Athens. Since then, a lot of publications were printed in the Venice, in thousands of copies and in Athens after the German release. The last ones however are of very low qualitiy, full of alterations. The first completed and correct publication, which was based on the initial one of Venice, was in Heraklion of Crete in 1915. In this publication there is an extensive introduction, glossary and bibliography.

The language of the poem is the dialect of Eastern Crete, which is considered to be particularly developed and capable of expressing effervescently so many ideas as well as sentiments. It is considered to be well comprehensible by the Greeks of that time, while even today it is not excessively difficult to read. What in any case deserves to be marked is that even if Kornaros is considered a roughly "popular" poet, without a particular education on behalf of him, the metre, as well as the rhyme in EROTOKRITOS are really perfect, without the rules of language or the right accentuation of words being forced. At the same time, the rhyme is everywhere particularly richl, with a big variety and is expressed effortlessly. All this characteristics are of bigger importance if we take into consideration the particularly big extent of the epic.
By this point of view, the poem is considered to be amongst the best works of popular poetry.

Regarding this, the criticsc have concluded that Kornaros did not imitate any particular works. It is said that he must have had direct knowledge of ancient grammar, Greek, or Latin, if we exclude some Italian translations. However it is believed that he had knowledge of Italian literature, included the part that constituted an imitation of older French "knightly" poems, while as we reported already, there are passages where the pictures and the ideas that are described, appear to emanate from Italian works. There are also explicit influences and descriptions from the Venetian environment of that time and, without any doubt, EROTOKRITOS is a "romantic, erotic, occidental epic". The distribution of EROTOKRITOS after its first publication in 1713 was enormous, in all the parts where there were Greeks. Of course the epic became a regular "popular reading", which was learned by heart and recited in each occasion. Verses of EROTOKRITOS were presented in the popular erotic poetry for a lot of times since then, while it gave reason for a lot of theatrical representations, creation of place-names etc. Such was its popularity that Adamantios Korais himself characterized Kornaros, in the beginning of the 19th century, as the "Homer of popular literature".


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